The one-act opera The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti was first presented by an amateur troupe on the 8th of May 1946 on the stage of the Brander Matthews Theatre at Columbia University. For the following season, using the “principle of contrast”, the composer created a joyful and fun prelude to it, the one-act opera The Telephone (the full name was The Telephone, or Love for Three). The joint premiere of the two operas was held on the 18th of February 1947 at the Heckscher Theatre in New York. Its success was unprecedented, and it opened the way to Broadway.

Only some months later, on the 1st of May 1947, the Broadway premiere took place at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. However, that time for the first few days the performances were given in a half-empty auditorium. That was until it was advertised by Arturo Toscanini, the “number one” conductor in the USA. Not only did he visit the performance once but came several times! Every next performance (there were over twenty in just the 1947-48 season) was sold out. Soon both The Telephone and The Medium became truly popular in the Unites States. Three years after the Broadway premiere, an opera-film was made in Rome, based on The Medium and it won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. In theatres, these operas are staged both together and separately. The Telephone was performed in Milan, Edinburgh, Ghent and San Francisco; The Medium – in Toronto, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Munich… In Russia, the operas were staged separately: in 1978 The Telephone was first performed in Kazan and The Medium – in 1979 on the stage at the Maly Opera and Ballet Theatre (now Mikhailovsky) in Leningrad.

Guarantees of the popularity of the operas by Menotti consisted of the unusual and modern librettos (they were written by the composer himself), the music, denied of any academic “rigourism”, composed in a light, witty and ironic manner, as well as the mastery of orchestra management and a natural for an Italian born composer with a sense for singing voices. (The style of vocal parts of Menotti’s operas, related to both comic Italian operas of the 18th century and musicals, is comparable to, for instance, Bernstein's Candide).

The narrative of The Telephone is in the communication of two lovers, which is constantly interrupted by chats on the phone. An agitated and timid admirer finds the only possible way to ask his lady to marry him: he calls from a telephone box to break through the queue of those who want to talk to her. The short story is concluded by a duet of agreement and a happy ending.

The Medium inherits stories, traditional for opera librettos, about participation of other worldly powers: spirits, the walking dead and so on. The atmosphere of the opera is imbued with grotesque mystery and terror. The events take place in the living room of medium, Madame Flora, where parents come to hear voices of their dead children. A gloomy phantasmagoria, which is in fact a trick (Madame is masterfully helped by her young assistants), finishes with a bloody climax.

The Telephone and The Medium suit a production on a chamber stage. This is dictated by a reduced orchestra, as well as a small number of soloists. That is why their presentation on the Chamber Stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in one evening on the 22nd of March 2019 was logical. The production team created a minimalistic and modern performance, having transferred the events to the present day and linked the two operas by using the same cast.